Board of Adjustment


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Meeting Date: 07/28/2020  
Requested by: Bayer Vella
Submitted By: Hannah Oden, Community and Economic Development
Case Number: 2001494

Staff recommends denial of the request.
The applicant is requesting a variance to encroach into the required front yard building setback by 2.5 feet to construct an attached garage (Attachment 1). The subject property is located within an R1-36 zoning district with a required front yard building setback of 30 feet. The subject property is lot 93 in the Oro Valley Country Club Estates subdivision as shown on the map to the right and is outlined in yellow.

The home was built toward the front of the property and is adjacent to the Oro Valley Country Club golf course. The home was built in 1959 by a famous local architect, Thomas Gist. The home has an original attached carport that has rot damage and is in need of repair or replacement (Attachment 1).

The applicant is proposing to remove the existing carport and construct an attached garage within a similar footprint to the existing carport and privacy fence. However, due to the historic nature of the home, the garage is proposed to be built approximately 5 feet from the existing home to leave the main wall untouched and will be attached by a common roof. To accomplish this design, the applicant is requesting a 2.5 foot encroachment into the front building setback, reducing the required front yard setback to 27.5 feet. 

Staff recommends denial of the variance request determining that all five findings have not been met as described in the following background and detailed information.


  • Property is located in the Oro Valley Estates subdivision
  • Lot size is 38,295 square feet
  • Property was purchased in 2019 with the existing home already constructed on the lot (built in 1959)
  • An existing 2-car carport is attached to the home
State Law and the Oro Valley Zoning Code require the Board of Adjustment to determine that all of the following variance findings have been met in order to grant a variance. The required five findings are shown in italics below, followed by the applicant and staff comments. The applicant’s complete response to the findings are included in Attachment 1.

1. That there are special circumstances or conditions applying to the property referred to in the application including its size, shape, topography, location or surroundings which do not apply to other properties in the district. 

Applicant Comment:
The applicant details the historic value of the home and provides background on the home's history. They explain that the house was built in 1959 by a famous local architect, Thomas Gist, and that a National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form, which incudes the subject property, is currently under review by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Historic Sites Review Committee (HSRC). The applicant details how the design of the garage will compliment and protect the historic character of the home by moving it away from the main home.

The property owner also explains that this is the only preserved Thomas Gist home that exists in Oro Valley and that the Town's Historic Preservation Committee supports retaining its historic character. Due to the unique historic significance of the home, the applicant explains that this is a special circumstance that applies to the property.
Staff Comment:
A special circumstance, as determined by State Law, means that the property itself must be unique in its topography, shape, location, surroundings, or size in such a way that would deprive the property of privileges enjoyed by other properties in the same zoning district.

The subject property is located in a flat area with virtually no slopes or topography that would create a special circumstance necessitating the need for a variance (Attachment 2). Furthermore, the topography, or lack thereof, was not an influencing factor for the placement of the home. There are also no unique circumstances in terms of the size, shape, location, and surroundings of the property that do not apply to other parcels in the neighborhood and R1-36 zoning district. Based on these factors, staff finds that this finding has not been met.

2. That special circumstances were not created by the owner or applicant.

Applicant Comment:
The applicant articulates that the home is considered part of the property and that the house was placed strategically for mountain views and to overlook the 18th fairway. The property owner also explains that the setbacks, design, and shape of the lot influenced the placement of the home. 

The applicant discusses that they did not influence where the home was placed nor that the carport is in poor condition as the home was purchased with these conditions existing. The applicant states that locating the garage away from the home will preserve the historic character of the building and that "building an enclosed garage to replace the carport is a reasonable expectation for a circumstance not created by the current homeowner".

Staff Comment:
As mentioned previously, unique conditions must apply to the property itself for a special circumstance to exist per State Law and the Zoning Code. This finding refers to the special circumstances related to the property itself detailed in the first finding. Because no special circumstances apply to this property in terms of its size, shape, topography, location, or surroundings, this finding has not been met.

3. Variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of substantial property rights.

Applicant Comment:
The applicant explains that Gist added garages in later years to his designs and that the design of the proposed garage will not detract from its historical significance. The applicant emphasizes that the existing carport is in disrepair and poses a safety risk and that it is a substantial property right for a home of this value to have an enclosed garage, and that the majority of homes in the neighborhood have enclosed garages, too. 

The applicant described how no other places on the property can accommodate a garage. The side yards have Town and HOA setback constraints. The rear yard is not where Gist placed garages in his designs. The property owner explains that a garage in the rear yard would negatively impact views and would place the garage a considerable distance from the home and that "this would create a hardship in daily life to access, park, load, unload vehicles with no easy, direct entrance to the house". 

Staff Comment:
Garages, both attached and detached, are not unusual or uncommon in this neighborhood or zoning district. However, in this particular case, opportunities exist to construct an attached garage within the building setback. The garage could be moved 2.5 feet closer to the existing home to meet the building setbacks. This would eliminate a functional breezeway and would bring the garage entrance closer to the front door of the home and existing planter (Attachment 3), but would still be a viable option to comply with the building setbacks. This would also preserve the wall of the main home, retaining its historic value.

Moreover, alternative designs, such as putting the garage door on the west side of the proposed garage facing Golf View Drive, could bring the proposed addition within the allowed building setbacks. While this change would involve a driveway reconfiguration, there are opportunities to alter the garage design to meet building setbacks.

As previously mentioned, the lot is flat with no significant topography constraints. While the placement would be inconvenient and would bring the garage farther from the main home, there is ample room behind the main home and enclosed yard for a detached garage to safely house the applicant's vehicles. This would also involve a driveway reconfiguration, but a detached accessory structure would be able to meet all building setbacks in the rear yard (Attachment 3). 

While garages are not unusual in this neighborhood or zoning district, the fact that there are options to reconfigure the design of the garage or place it elsewhere on the property to meet the building setbacks would render the granting of this variance a special privilege. Staff finds that this finding has not been met. 

4. That any variance granted imposes such conditions as will assure that the authorizing of the adjustment shall not constitute a grant of special privileges inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity and zone in which such property is located.

Applicant Comment:
The applicant states that they are asking for a 2.5 foot encroachment into the front building setback, which would reduce the front building setback to 27.5 feet. The applicant lists three other properties in the neighborhood with R1-36 zoning that have been built closer than 30 feet to the front property line and states that their request would not be setting a precedent. 

The property owner explains that the HOA requires a 50 foot golf course setback on the north side of their property. They did request to build the garage on the golf course side but this was denied by the HOA. Instead, they were granted a 5 foot encroachment into the golf course setback which allows the garage to be built within the existing footprint of the carport and privacy fence.

Lastly, the applicant points out multiple zoning districts in their neighborhood, some of which have reduced front setbacks from the subject property. They state that "granting a 2.5-foot exception on our property for a structure should not be considered a special privilege based on the other inconsistent zoning laws in the area". The applicant summarizes that their request would not grant a special privilege based on other properties and that the proposed location is the only viable option for a garage on the property.  

Staff Comment
This finding is meant to apply conditions, if necessary, to variance requests to ensure no special privileges are granted that are inconsistent with surrounding properties. If the Board chooses to approve this variance request, an appropriate condition of approval to consider would be for the applicant to provide additional vegetative screening between the garage wall and Golf View Drive as approved by the Planning and Zoning Administrator. This is a reasonable condition because the building will be brought closer to the street scape and vegetative screening will ensure no special privilege is granted. 

This variance request is subject to conditions that would ensure that no special privileges are granted that are inconsistent with other properties in the neighborhood or zoning district. Therefore, this finding has been met.

5. That the authorizing of the variance will not be materially detrimental to persons residing in the vicinity, to adjacent property, to the neighborhood or the public welfare in general.

Applicant Comment:
The applicant states that the garage will replace an existing footprint and that the design will compliment the historic character of the existing home. The property owner explains that the structure will not be unusual or obtrusive for the neighborhood and that replacing the carport will add curb appeal. The structure will not pose any safety risks and will not adversely impact residents or property in the vicinity or public welfare in general. 

Staff Comment
Staff has met with the property owner on-site to discuss the request and evaluate the proposed location. The proposed garage will essentially be within the same footprint as the existing carport and privacy fence and would be designed to compliment the main home using similar burnt adobe bricks. Due to the curve of Golf View Drive at this location, the proposed garage would not cause any sight visibility issues. Because of these factors, this finding has been met as the proposed garage will not be materially detrimental to adjacent properties, the neighborhood, or public welfare in general. 

Public Notice has been provided as follows:
  • Notice sent to all property owners within 300 feet of the subject properties.
  • Notice posted on the property.
  • Notice posted online at
  • Notice advertised in the Daily Territorial.
Staff finds that the variance request does not meet all five findings of the Zoning Code and State Law and recommends denial.
I MOVE to approve this variance request to reduce the front building setback to 27.5 feet at a property located at 525 W. Golf View Drive, based on the finding that the five criteria have been met.


I MOVE to deny this variance request to reduce the front building setback to 27.5 feet at a property located at 525 W. Golf View Drive, based on the finding that the five criteria have not been met.
Attachment 1: Applicant Submittal
Attachment 2: Topographic Map
Attachment 3: Site Photos


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